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YMCA and OB a Perfect Match

by Andy Ashby - The Desoto County Tribune

By Andy Ashby/ashby@dctribune.com Wednesday, May 11, 2005 3:03 PM CDT

The Olive Branch Family YMCA has come a long way, from a feasibility study several years ago to a 46,000-square-foot building today.

The study determined that Olive Branch would be a good place for a new YMCA.

"It came back very positive that a YMCA would do well here," Olive Branch Family YMCA executive director Robinson said. "Once that was finished, we starting building relationships in the community around 2003, meeting with the mayor, the aldermen and a steering committee."

Investors raised the $5.5 million and the YMCA signed up. The ‘Y' has a 20-lease with an option to buy in five years.

"We're looking at doing that in five years. Then it will be YMCA-owned," Robinson said.

The Olive Branch Family YMCA will have about 80 to 100 people on its staff, depending on what season it is.

"In the summer, we'll definitely be up to that highest number. Seasonally, we'll lose some of the employees as soon as summer day camp is over," Robinson said.

When the weather warms up, the YMCA will definitely be the place to be. The ‘Y' has become licensed for almost 300 summer camp kids. There area also plenty of aquatic activities during the summer. In the fall, employees will drop to between 60 and 80.

The Olive Branch Family YMCA also has a full-time staff.

Debbie Johnson is the membership director.

"She's going to be over the front desk, which is really the hub of how everything functions in the ‘Y,' " Robinson said.

Raney Brookes is the membership services director.

"She'll be working with Debbie on our membership. She'll also be over our Kids' Corner, which is the area for 18 months to four-year-olds," Robinson said.

Mary Ellen Grannan is the youth and family services director.

"She's going to be over the youth room, summer day camp, after-school programs and probably some home school programs, like physical education programs we're probably going to be doing in the ‘Y,' " Robinson said.

Cythia Keech is the aquatics director.

"She'll be busy this summer with three pools, doing all the swim lessons and lifeguard training, just making sure that everyone is safe in the pools," Robinson said.

Kelly Phillips is the health and wellness director.

"She's going to be over the main fitness floor and all the fitness programs, assessments and consultations," Robinson said.

She will also be directing the Alpha Center, which is a senior activity area during the day. In the afternoon, it will be a teen center with a computer lab.

One fitness program is 12 weeks long and tries to get people into a regular routine.

"After that, hopefully they're in a routine and just keep doing it for themselves," Robinson said.

Mark Hughes is the senior program director.

"He's going to be overseeing all of these areas and some of his own specialty programs, community projects and service-learning programs. He's going to be doing a lot of in-house quality control over the programs we do and a lot of the community projects we do," Robinson said.

Rick Kuykendall is the associate executive and will be running the Olive Branch Family YMCA's day-to-day operations.

"He's also going to do some programs that he's personally wanted to do," Robinson said.

One of these programs Adventure Guides, which used to be two programs, the Indian Guides and the Indian Princesses.

"It's a family program that gets parents and kids doing activities together to strengthen the families. They'll go on camping trips and different social activities," Robinson said.

The Olive Branch Family YMCA is up to around 1,200 units or about 4,000 members.

"We're shooting for 1,300 by grand opening," Robinson said. "The feasibility study said the first 15 months could potentially be 2,500 units and a goal after 18 to 24 months being 3,600 units. That could be anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 members."

The grand opening will have a ceremony Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon, with a ribbon cutting and special recognition of the people who worked on the project. The YMCA will also recognize those who participated in the naming-rights campaign.

The Olive Branch High School band will perform. The YMCA's karate instructor and gymnastics instructor will do demonstrations. There will be other program demonstrations from noon to 4 p.m.

Companies like Chick-Fil-A will provide refreshments. There will also be a moon bounce, face painting and other games for the kids.

Robinson said he would like to give a special thanks to the Olive Branch Family YMCA's charter members.

"They are the special people who wanted to be recognized as a part of this from the ground floor up," Robinson said. Charter members were able to use the facility on May 9.

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